Exotic flavors ahead for 2006
The exotic flavors of anise, caraway, chai, marjoram, paprika, saffron and sesame are the tastes of 2006, according to McCormick & Co.
The spice-bottling company surveyed chefs, television personalities, journalists and cookbook authors from around the country to come up with the list of seven tastes and flavors that will define the year.
Anise seed is treasured for its pungent licorice-like flavor and aroma. It has always been associated with baked goods during the holidays, but is now being incorporated in sauces and broths.
Caraway is probably best known for flavoring rye bread, but the seed is also an important part of cuisines such as Eastern European and Indian. Marjoram, with its sweet, mint-like flavor may not be as familiar, but is often used in Italian pasta and risotto dishes.
Chai, of course, is already well known as a drink flavoring, but the spices that make up chai -- cardamom, cinnamon, cloves and pepper, are now being used to flavor unique sweets and desserts.
Paprika is gaining respect for its flavoring rather than just as a decorative sprinkle. Marinades, sauces, rubs and stews are just a few dishes enhanced by this dried sweet red-pepper powder.
Saffron is another spice that has the benefit of enhancing both color and flavor in dishes. It is still a rather expensive spice, but luckily a little goes a long way. Classic bouillabaisse, risottos, soups and stews wouldn't be the same without it.
Finally, sesame is a seed that dates back thousands of years, although its flavor was not appreciated in the West until recently. Asian and Mediterranean cuisines have long valued its toasty, nutty flavor and its aromatic oil.
As for other food trends of 2006:
For top ingredients, Food & Wine picks Middle Eastern sweets, artisanal honey and grass-fed beef. Bon Appetit lists bacon as its top ingredient, with also-rans including grits, pork and beans, braised meats and quinoa.
Bon Appetit lists Indian as the top cuisine. Chef and Food Network star Mario Batali looks for a rediscovery of Cajun and creole foods and a boom in Vietnamese cooking.
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